EDINBURGH claimed back-to-back Pro12 wins for the first time in 13 months thanks to a masterful display of kicking by Sam Hidalgo-Clyne at a weather beaten Sportsground.
Alan Solomons’ side trailed by six points at the break, but made the most of the strong wind advantage to hold Connacht scoreless after the restart.
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And as the home side lost their discipline, Hidalgo-Clyne took full advantage with three sweet kicks to clinch the win and close the gap between the sides to just five points in the standings.
After winning the toss the visitors elected to play into the teeth of the storm in the first half. Edinburgh’s recent victory over arch rivals Glasgow meant they travelled to Galway in buoyant form, but they should have fallen behind in the eighth minute when they infringed at the breakdown roughly 30 metres from their own try-line.
With the wind at his back, Connacht stand-off Miah Nikora might have expected to easily manage the distance but his effort cannoned off the crossbar.
Edinburgh didn’t deserve to trail after their early endeavour, so when their opening score of the game arrived through a Dave Denton try on 17 minutes, Connacht could have no complaints.
A quick tap penalty by Hidalgo-Clyne almost sent Hamish Watson over at first, but from the next phase Denton was forced over the line when he coupled with Jack Cuthbert.
Hidalgo-Clyne’s conversion gave Edinburgh a 7-0 lead, but the home side trimmed that back to a four-point gap when Nikora drilled over a penalty in the 24th minute when Anton Bresler infringed on the ground.
John Muldoon came close to giving the hosts the lead just after the half-hour mark, but Cuthbert’s covering tackle halted the Connacht skipper.
But three minutes from the break the pressure told when Ben Toolis killed the ball under the Connacht posts and earned a yellow card for his troubles. Connacht elected to scrum and Leighton Hodges was quick to award the penalty try at the first attempt with the Edinburgh scrum in reverse.
Nikora converted for a 10-7 lead, and he tagged on another penalty on half-time after Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki forced a crucial turnover.
Despite their numerical disadvantage Edinburgh started the second half impressively with the wind at their backs. And four minutes in they cut Connacht’s advantage to three points when Hidalgo-Clyne landed an impressive penalty from the right when prop Denis Buckley went off his feet.
Edinburgh continued to turn the screw and by the 50th minute they drew level. This time tighthead Rodney Ah You was penalised at the scrum, and Hidalgo-Clyne landed the toughest kick up to that point from the right side to make it 13-13.
Just short of the hour mark the young scrum-half saw another kick from the ten-metre line drift wide. But Connacht’s ill-discipline cost them and once the penalty count went to seven in the 70th minute the unlucky infringer, Finlay Bealham, was sent to the sin bin for the remainder of the game.
The penalty was just inside the Connacht half on the left, and with Watson holding the ball steady on the tee, Hidalgo-Clyne drilled over a sublime penalty to give Edinburgh the victory.
Scorers: Connacht: Tries: Pen try. Cons: M Nikora. Pens: M Nikora 2. Edinburgh: Tries: D Denton. Cons: S Hidalgo-Clyne. Pens: S Hidalgo-Clyne 3.
Connacht: M Muliaina (for D McSharry 64); D Leader, R Henshaw, B Aki, D Poolman; M Nikora (for J Carty 54), K Marmion (for J Cooney 56); D Buckley (for JP Cooney 64), T McCartney (for D Heffernan 66), R Ah You (for F Bealham 50); Q Roux (for U Dillane 64), A Muldowney; J Muldoon, W Faloon, E McKeon (for G Naoupu 56)..
Edinburgh: J Cuthbert; D Fife, M Scott, P Burleigh, T Visser; G Tonks, S Hidalgo-Clyne; A Dickinson, R Ford (for N Cochrane 63), WP Nel; A Bresler (for F McKenzie 77), B Toolis; R Grant, H Watson, D Denton.
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